Because David decided to get married this Friday (rather than Saturday) I had to move the usual 3 x 2 miles Zn4 workout to last night. This meant I had to get started a little earlier than last week due to the fact that I had to finish up early enough to get dinner and get to bed at a reasonable hour (as opposed to Friday when I can start and finish a bit later). Anyway, this is all fairly insignificant except that the high temperature yesterday was somewhere around 93 degrees meaning it was still close to 90 when I started the workout at 6 PM. The heat, in addition to the lack of running partner, meant the workout was pretty much a shit show.
However, it did remind me of the importance of adjusting performance goals to match conditions. More specifically training and/or racing in the heat will have detrimental effects on performance due mainly to the fact that your heart has to do more work to keep your body cool, as opposed to transporting blood to and from your muscles. This brings up a number of questions I'm often asked regarding training in the heat.
1. Can I get used to running in the heat? Yes, heat acclimation can be attained in a couple of weeks. However, while acclimation will help improve performance, it will NOT allow you to duplicate performances from ideal conditions. For example, if you feel like you are in shape to run a 39 minute 10k in good conditions, don't think that you can just run in warm weather for a couple of weeks and then go out and run a 39 minute 10k when its 90 degrees outside. The acclimation may however help you run 39:30 (or something along those lines) rather than 41:00.
2. So if running in the heat is harder, does that mean I should do hard workouts in heat? Wont that be a better workout? No. This is not like running up a hill in which case running a slower pace still results in a good workout. Hard workouts should be performed in the optimal conditions because your goal for the workout should be to achieve the fastest pace possible for a given amount of time. Therefore, try to do quality sessions in the best conditions possible (in the evening or early morning).
3. So how should I go about acclimating? Just do one or two easy runs a couple of days a week in the heat of the day. I'd also suggest trying one or two quality sessions just to get an idea of how the heat will affect your pace so that when you are faced with starting a HOT run, you'll have a good idea of how much you'll need to dial back your goal pace. Of course when doing any hot weather training make sure to hydrate well before and during the workout.
4. Any other tips? Wear a hat and a white, CoolMax or DriFit shirt. While running shirtless may be more comfortable, I find a nice technical running shirt will help keep me cool when it is very hot and sunny out. Also, wearing a hat or visor to keep the sun off my face helps a lot as well.
So there you have it. Running in the heat isnt fun but unfortunately it is a necessary evil if you want to perform well in a lot of triathlons. Finally... dont forget your sunscreen!!